Saturday, 5 February 2011

Their Fated Travels...Chapter 23 - The Skaven Attack

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Their Fated Travels…

RPG Party events as told By Robert James Freemantle

Chapter 23

The Skaven Attack!

150 years ago:

The Celestial College:

The seer council stared in horror and fascination at what they jointly foresaw would happen next to the group. Surely…surely this would be the death of them – they all agreed. All except one: Seer Magister Viez.

150 years later:

The present:

They had left the cities of Middenheim and then later - Altdorf behind them. They had presented only danger and mayhem. They were starting to feel collectively as if anywhere they might go would be fraught with risk to their safety - that somehow fate was trying to kill them. Little did they realise that in some ways, “fate” was against them. There were after all, powerful forces who were bound by contract of conditional payment of their deaths before they could get what they wanted – namely Morr. Dieter privately wondered if Morr’s agents would be seeking them out, to speed up the process of “the contract”. He wouldn’t have put it past them.

They indeed concluded that fate had been waiting for them in ambush at Middenheim and it was a wonder that no one ended up dead. Then they were drawn back to Altdorf again where more problems had befallen them. But again, they didn’t realise that by leaving by a remote route now, by running from fate they were heading into a danger far greater than anything they had faced so far!

It was almost certain that Morr was watching their progress and what was coming. If Shallya was also observing their progress right about now, she would have been putting her hands across her face and saying, “I can’t watch.”

“Oh crap” started Tobias as he observed the carnage around them. Though he was only meant to be a formal observer to the party, things had changed a little when Maestro had been granted his full magister’s licence. Tobias was now present on a semi formal basis, present to record some great deed that the Supreme Lord Patriarch had foreseen to come. His rules of actual party relations engagement had been slackened somewhat now. After all, with each night time that arrived, his thief self had broken all of those rules anyway. He had developed an actual admiration for Maestro now. He couldn’t believe that the wizard had come this far in so short a time.

They had taken a coach south from the city and it had ridden them quickly through much of the nearby forest, not far from the forest’s edge. Their destination was Nuln, the once capital of the Empire. The place where Rissandrea had been born. It was time for her to visit that place once more. Maestro had agreed to go too, because it meant the tricky matter of him taking on an apprentice wouldn’t come about if he wasn’t around in the College…

Their driver had received word from military sources that roaming bands of Beastmen had been seen on the roads that led directly south easterly towards Nuln. The driver had therefore decided to press directly south instead and when he had gone suitably far enough off of the orthodox route, he would cut directly east instead. Of course this made him happy as well because it meant the fare would be higher too.

The coach had rolled over a bump in the road which had turned out to be a body of an Empire Soldier. His uniform was too badly torn, his body and armour too disfigured to ascertain the livery’s origin. They had ridden on, only to come upon a section of the road that was covered in bodies. The further along the road they went, the more bodies they saw. They could tell from what little was left of the heavily disfigured men, that they were mixed units from a number of different armed companies around the Empire.

Tobias reminded the group that he had heard of some soldiers being posted as a guard on areas of importance even as far south as this. There was always the risk of a regrouped invasion forming and these men were the rearguard in place in case it did. They were out of Middenland now but even Reikland’s northern side had become destabilised from the war. In fact, one of the biggest threats to the area was the fearful people. When people were scared they did silly things. They would get paranoid with each other, unable to discern enemy from friend. These soldiers were also dealing with such problems as these.

The coach simply had to stop because the amount of bodies in the way made it impossible to pass. They would now have the unpleasant job of moving them out of the way first. The coach driver Samuel was already regretting accepting a job from the so called “heroes” of Middenheim and Altdorf. He told his manager that it would probably mean trouble for him, seeing as how much trouble they had gotten themselves into during just their short visit alone. The manager had been unsympathetic to Samuel’s concerns. He knew that his manager didn’t like him anyway. That was probably why he had been assigned the task of transporting this seemingly ill-fated group.

If there had been some sort of Old World transporters union then they might have passed a collective law banning the group from travel. Lucky for them, there wasn’t.

“What could have done this I wonder? Gosh I hope we’re not in danger” speculated Maestro. Rissandrea was a little disturbed by the wizard’s unfeeling tone. It wasn’t just this time she considered, Maestro would often react to atrocious things far more casually than she would expect a wizard to. After all, he wasn’t used to being up to his elbows in enemy intestines like Tordrad or Dieter were, yet he was so blasé even about things that would surprise the other two. She noticed that Maestro had no reaction to the scared orphans they had met on their way to Middenheim. He had felt nothing of their companions deaths along the way, those such as Father Odo. She had noticed Maestro’s lack of emotional regard for so many things, except his own safety. She wondered if he might perhaps have some sociopathic tendencies or an undiagnosed disorder. It wouldn’t be too hard to imagine – most wizards had something wrong with them, she had noticed. She could recall at least twice having to lay her hands upon the man’s head and recite calming blessings when his spells had backlashed badly on him, like a gust catching a match’s flame and burning one’s fingers – but on a far greater level, threatening his very sanity perhaps. Then there was his discomfort around women as well…he did indeed have a number of unresolved issues, she determined thoughtfully.

“Perhaps a beastman attack?” wondered Dieter aloud.

Tobias snootily replied, “That is unlikely, Death”

“De’ath!” corrected Dieter angrily, “If you keep calling me that, I’ll end up tying your tongue around a tree branch until you say it right.”

Rissandrea noticed how Dieter carried his darkness on his sleeve, but the more she tried to think about it, the harder it was for her to concentrate. That bothered her too.

Tobias continued in his snobbish manner, “These people have been eaten right here and now. Beastmen would at least take them to their camp and consume them there.” With that the halfling wiped his sweating forehead stressfully knowing he was perhaps close to extreme danger. As always, the halfling in the day time had a good temper for taking threats from Dieter. His night time self was a little more impatient however.

Rissandrea considered Tobias’s mental state each night. This perhaps concerned her more than any of the others. She saw it as her duty to get to the bottom of his problem too.

Dieter shrugged, “Perhaps they were starved followers of Khorne who didn’t just stop at a blood fix.”

Rissandrea formed the mark of Shallya in the air at the mention of ‘Khorne’.

Tordrad slightly squinted his left eye and curled his lip on that same side while looking at the state of the bodies around them. His keenly honed battle senses warned him that here had been the site of a great battle. <“We are all in great danger standing here, fools.”> he said in his Kislevite tongue and gave up trying to make them understand.

“Besides” continued Tobias, “you’ll notice the bones have not been cracked to get at the marrow as beastmen or orcs would do. Something has feasted, but in a hurry.”

Only Tordrad and Dieter did not hold their noses from the stench of decay around them. The coach driver went as far as to vomit for a third time, just to attest to the horrific surroundings that faced them.

Fourteen minutes later, they had moved all of the bodies aside. The coach driver rode on with a handkerchief still firmly across his face like a bandit might were he to rob this very coach.

They continued on the road, still passing bodies as they went but they were more thinly placed around them. In some cases they were thinly spaced because their limbs were apart from the torsos, but still they all had one visual factor in common – they had all been grossly mutilated in some way. Many were stripped to the bone.

Within seconds the road took a steep uphill slant. They could see the presence of more bodies at the top and the fearful feeling inside them, the terrible consideration of dread at how bad a mistake coming this way had been finally dawned on all of them.

A live soldier dragged himself to the top of the hill from the far side. His legs were missing from the knee down on his right and from the upper thigh on his left. He began rolling downhill. Maestro noted that it seemed almost comical, like the various slapstick plays he had seen in his youth but decided that he had better not say so publicly.

The coach halted at the bottom of the hill so as to not run him over.

As the party hurriedly got out, ready to rush towards him in a gesture of futility, the grievously wounded man reached a desperate bloodied hand towards them, bringing up red foam from his mouth as he did so then collapsed completely, face down.

Rissandrea’s face turned to stone - a permanent frown of mental grieving as if he had been a relation to her. At that moment in time, Tobias reckoned that she looked every bit like the mournful statues of Shallya herself. The truth was that those of the Shallyan order were more outward with their feelings; they were more emotional over the suffering of innocents.

As Rissandrea put her two palms to the man’s chest Dieter asked, “Can you save him?”

Rissandrea responded, “Were I to revive him somehow he would only suffer a few moments more before dying again, perhaps more painfully this time” Her face contorted in sorrow. It worsened as Dieter spoke, “His pain is of little importance. He can tell us what happened here.”

Rissandrea looked at Dieter in horror, momentarily her eyes regarded him as if he were the Everchosen of chaos standing in front of her at that moment in time, or perhaps some sort of terrible daemon. As her mind started to race, his smile somehow then had a calming effect on her and she started to forget how that original thought had come about. She thought more logically about it for a moment and replied when Dieter impatiently gestured with his hand for a required answer.

Rissandrea stated, “He has passed too far through the gates of death. For me to interfere now would be an affront to Morr himself. I would not seek to upset the higher powers.”

Dieter’s face flushed with embarrassment at this comment. Relax he told himself, she doesn’t know what you’ve done, but he let the issue go as it was with a respectful bow of his head.

Ulger smelled a patch of blood on the ground and lapped at it wistfully. Tobias looked at the dog and thought to himself how there seemed to be something wrong with it - some darkness about it somehow.

As the group reached the top of the hill on foot and the coach driver staggered along a few paces behind them huffing and puffing as he went, they saw a new carnage that made the previous find look tame. Before them now was the site of the true battle it seemed. This time there were so many bodies in the way that stretched further up the road that trying to clear the blockage might keep them here until nightfall. As the coach driver Samuel reached the top of the hill beside them, he stared for a second, his eyes bulged and he gagged, raising a finger to the others to indicate that his vomit had been a false alarm, that he was on top of the situation. Suddenly he threw up.

Maestro stepped his foot out of the contents of the man’s stomach and said, “Well that’s charming.” He was seemingly oblivious to his surroundings.

These bodies too were in a state of disarray, being mutilated like the others down the hill..

Dieter frowned and spoke cold and clinically, “The corpses have not been here for long. The blood is not dry everywhere yet. It looks like some wild creatures have eaten them.” Tobias replied, “But Death, no pack of animals would ever be large enough to consume so much, so widespread in so little time.”

Dieter snarled, “It’s De’ath you pompous fool and no it couldn’t have been a normal pack of animals, such as wolves. But I can tell you this much. The beastmen were indeed here.”

Dieter pointed at a nearby corpse. There they saw a dead beastman. As their view went wider, they saw more of the foul chaos children, littering the streets but most them had died in the fields of barley that faced onto the road.

“So there has been a battle between the two” said Maestro.

“Indeed” replied Dieter, “and the beastmen were heavily outnumbered. But the beastmen did not eat these men. Look.”

Dieter had walked over to a beastman corpse and pointed to it. As they got closer they saw that it too had been eaten similarly.

Rissandrea had never been surrounded by so much death. She stared in dismay at the loss of life, considering the pain and suffering wrought here.

Maestro’s expression became panicked, “If something has killed or eaten them both then you can guarantee we would fit the bill for a tasty snack.”

Tobias jokingly remarked, “Yes and if they ate you Maestro, your staff would make a handy toothpick for afterwards.”

Maestro glared at the halfling, “Oh really? Well at least they wouldn’t be drawing for the shortest straw of who gets to eat me, unlike you.”

Tobias spluttered, “I’ll have you know I have lots of meat on me! I eat good food and the fat would be tasty I…” then he commented, “…and why are we arguing about this?”

Tordrad had gotten the gist of the conversation and commented in his native tongue, <“Over my dead body will they eat you, wizard.”> Then Tordrad realised what he had said and felt disgusted with himself. It depressed him to have to say that. He commented as an after thought, <“But they can eat halfling all they want. I might eat him as snack yet! He so small. But perhaps there be good fight for me soon! Yes?”>

Maestro and Tobias simply stared at Tordrad as they saw him mutter something in Kislevian, laugh and take a swig of vodka. Tobias reckoned that Tordrad was definitely an alcoholic. Maestro smiled politely and said, “Yes Tordrad, I do indeed deem this area too unsafe to remain in any longer. Whatever did this might return.”

“We can’t continue in me coach though guv” said Samuel. He looked pathetic with a little vomit on his collar, “it’d never get over all the bodies. The only way round is through the field and as ye can plainly see it’s filled with beastmen bodies. We’d end up losing a wheel on a horn or something.”

Rissandrea had finally finished administering prayers for the bodies around her. She frowned with exhaustion and said, “As much as it feels inadvisable, I think we need to move onwards, on foot and quickly at that.”

So it was decided. Together they walked down the pathway, keeping just inside the forest so they could take cover by the massive trees here if need be.

Dieter stretched his mind out, as if connecting with the land itself. Something aethyric blazed inside him and suddenly he could feel vibration through the soles of his feet. He didn’t even know how because he had cast no spell, knowingly. Through the vibrations he could feel the party that walked beside him, yet there was something else. Further back – much further back behind them were lots of vibrations. He recognized the vibrations of two feet of a person walking, for the group with him set the norm, yet something felt different about the vibrations he felt some way away. He was sensing two feet in a normal stepping formation, yet there was an extra property connecting with the ground too, a sort of banging scraping. Perhaps a body being dragged behind someone, he thought. This feeling was multiplied by many however. He also perceived the vibrations of four feet too. He remained quiet about all of this.

Soon they could smell fire. The further south they went the stronger it became. They soon determined that its source lay somewhere deeper into the forest but not far. They came to a decision to head in and check it out. They would only look. Dieter and Ulger took the frontal position and walked far ahead of the others as he scouted, almost out of sight.

After eight minutes of walking they could see he had stopped and crouched beside some shrubbery to view something. They were finally catching up when he waved them to him and he stepped onwards confidently. As the others emerged they saw a hamlet, a tiny area of three houses surrounded by trees. Tobias commented aloud that there was no such place on the map. Rissandrea put forward that perhaps the map makers didn’t feel three houses important enough to list. “In theory then” said Maestro, “if this place doesn’t officially exist it should be safe.”

“Hah” said Dieter sardonically as he nodded towards the scene unfolding ahead in the forest clearing that served as the hamlet’s village square. In the square, a burning pyre had been prepared and four men were harassing a young woman. They had encircled her, leaving her no way of escape. They laughed amongst themselves at her torment.

Maestro commented, “Unbelievable, what is it with these people? Keep trying to burn everyone?” But his tone didn’t indicate that he wanted to try and stop it. Everyone assumed he did though and they moved forwards. Maestro didn’t want to be left behind so he pressed on as well.

The four men and the young woman were on a raised stone square shaped platform that had two sets of steps that ran a short way up to it.

Maestro had appeared behind one of the men, looking over his shoulder with interest. “Gosh” he started, “is this a private meeting or is anyone invited? Where’s the buffet?”

The men mostly ignored Maestro except for one who answered him, “We are going to burn this witch. We thought she was one of us, normal and decent, but then she changed. Then she became a magical freak. We can’t leave her to become a witch.”

Seeing Maestro’s surprise the man added, “It’s for all of our sakes, it’s a matter of public safety.”

Dieter stepped forward suddenly and barged in between the men, “You’re damned right it’s a matter of public safety. If you try and burn that young woman none of you will be safe…understand?”

The men paused at this but still kept their composure, even when they spotted the rest of the party walking up the steps. Tordrad’s visor was still down so they missed out on the expression on his face, for he recognized an element of his own people in the girl who he estimated to be around seventeen. Perhaps she is Kislevian, he wondered.

Maestro focused on his witchsight and was able to see the magical aura around the young girl. By all accounts her powers had just broken out and these men were persecuting her. Something seemed different about the energies around her body however, something that Maestro had never seen before. Ice! It looked just like small icicles falling off of her body.

Rissandrea stepped forward and spoke, “Gentlemen, though you are deprived of the learning and laws of the big cities, you must try to comprehend – those who are found to be magically gifted are shown the way into the colleges of magic. They are given a chance to avoid hedge wizardry and serve the Empire.”

“Indeed” butted in Tobias, “As was authorized by the elves two centuries ago in the time of Emperor Magnus the Pious. They allowed humans to practice magic in safer ways, where colleges were founded, as they mentored the Empire’s fledgling years of a new age.”

“Too man fancy filled words” said one man.

“Bah, we don’t care what any scrawny elves said” boasted another of the men, “that load of stuck up tight lipped plonkers. Look, this ain’t the city.”

Maestro bit his lip to stop himself agreeing with them on their last point about the elves…It was fine he reasoned, the elves felt the same way about him too.

Tordrad flexed his fingers and limbered his body up for a fight. Even this did not put the men off.

Rissandrea came back at them, “The Empire military is having to divert previous forces to policing the rural areas just so that this sort of thing doesn’t happen. What are they wasting their resources for if you would simply take the law into your own hands?”

One of the men seemed persuaded by this; it was clear on his face but not the others.

Maestro looked carefully at the young girl and squinted one eye as he asked, “You don’t have a particular love of engineering do you?”

The young lady looked at him confused. Maestro elaborated, “You know, spanners, wrenches, oil, gunpowder, wires, flux, cogs, things exploding and nearly blowing your eyebrows off - this sort of thing?”

The girl looked at him in a shocked manner, momentarily considering the wizard more warily than the men who were threatening her, then quickly shook her head to indicate no.

“Ah good” answered Maestro, “Very good. Well in that case young lady, I am to see you are trained by the colleges of magic!” Maestro waved a finger in an upwards spiral into the air, full of self importance. Tobias shook his head in consideration of Maestro’s foolish reasoning for his point. Maestro was used to seeing people do this so paid it no mind – he simply continued, “I am now a master wizard of my order. I have the power to introduce you to the collegiate. I have the power to train you myself even!”

The men became interested in Maestro at last, looking him from toe to head as if looking at him for the first time. One said, “Ah, so you’re a no good trouble making wizard are you? I can believe it. You look the part.”

“Thank you” replied Maestro.

Tobias rolled his eyes at how right the men’s description actually was, even though they were trying to be offensive.

“Not much of one though” came another of the men, “he don’t look like much.”

“True enough” agreed another of the men, “after we’ve done with this girl, you’ll be next on the pyre if you don’t leave, wizard!”

The men laughed and scoffed at the skinny frame of the man standing in front of them.

A look of stern concentration came across Maestro’s face. The winds of magic pulled and swirled around him like a vortex of power. Winds began to kick up around the men, seemingly concentrated around the wizard. Quickly the wind increased in strength, blowing Maestro’s robes and hair about magnificently. The men reckoned they could see Maestro begin to grow in size somehow. In actual fact he was slightly levitated off the ground.

The men saw Maestro’s angered eyes alive with electricity running through them, with a stare that threatened to tear them apart. At last, with this demonstration of great power and seasoned control noted Tobias, the men began to back away from the girl. The young lady herself even turned and considered moving away from the wizard. She fancied that he looked like he could explode with energy at any moment, but she held her ground, trembling a little as Maestro’s clenched teeth showed.

A calming but small hand rested upon the wizard’s arm. It was Tobias. Where the halfling made contact, the magical build up in that exact spot subsided. Maestro began to calm down at the reassuring touch and look in Tobias’s eyes.

The men stared at Maestro then over his shoulder at the others in the party. Dieter’s eyes were most disturbing to look at. His pupils were dilated and his sickening sneer spoke of cruelty they could never imagine. Rissandrea too could feel it and the hairs on the back of her neck began to stand on end.

Rissandrea put a hand out and gestured for the young girl to come to her. She did as requested and stood by Rissandrea’s side.

An excited chittering sound grabbed all of their attentions. As they all looked out towards a section of forest on the outskirts of the hamlet, swarms of rats swept forward like a purpose driven wave of brown water along the ground. Their red eyes were fixed as they swept towards their goal so quickly that they tripped over each other along the way. Everyone gasped in horror at the sight of thousands of rats together coming at them.

Suddenly more squeaking gave away rats emerging from the other side of the hamlet, cutting off any chance of retreat that way.

As the rats neared, the men began running as a terrible shrill squeaking sound gave away a new threat – that of a skaven packmaster leading six gigantic rats, unnaturally larger than rats had any right to be – and they were heading straight towards those assembled in the hamlet.

As the villagers ran, Rissandrea held the young women in place as rats swarmed over two of them, who fell to their knees screaming from multitudes of tiny bites all across their bodies. The shrill crack of the thirteen tailed packmaster’s whip each section ending in warpstone reminded everyone else of the true danger coming up. The other two men ran for all they were worth and went back into their houses. The sound of clicking locks and sliding bolts across doors confirmed that the adventurers were going to be getting no help from them.

Tordrad raised his newly acquired gun upon the resting place within his poleaxe and opened fire. A great chunk of flesh tore out of one giant rat which fell to its knees. Two of the other rats turned to feast on it but the packmaster’s whip decisively sounded once more, deterring them from that action. Tordrad took aim and fired again.

From behind, where the first swarm of rats had appeared came a disheartening sight: ten skaven slaves reluctantly appeared from the forest, backed up by five clan rats. The two were distinguishable based on their attire. The slaves were smaller and were less well equipped than the clan rats. A clan leader led the procession, inciting violence in his troops.

The party’s faces were shocked. That expression then gave way to fear. Even Tordrad would have admitted feeling fear. If he could have spoken Reikspiel though, he would have told them that the true mark of a man is not to be fearless, but to not let it sway you into retreat.

With that, another shot rang out, felling one more of the giant rats.

The group of rats were now close enough to see the features of the packmaster more clearly. Rissandrea took her holy blessed pistol out, an item that once belonged to a witch hunter of some renown, rested it on her horizontally placed forearm and lined up a shot. She held her breath and squeezed the trigger gently so as to not affect her aim. A bullet shot out of the gun with a huge glowing white tail behind it, like a comet. It struck the packmaster in the throat and he collapsed amongst his giant rats who turned and feasted on their tormentor, now freed from the shackles of his control.

The group still stood upon the raised area. Dieter shouted, “This platform will give us an advantage over them.”

“So you do mean to fight them then Death?” asked Tobias fearfully.

Dieter gritted his teeth hatefully at the halfling and answered, “We already are, you cowardly piece of crap. If I hear anymore from you, I’ll use you as bait for the next wave.”

Maestro channelled a dart spell and fired it at the skaven. It hit one of them but still they kept coming. Maestro decided that this was probably not the best time to start conserving his powers, especially as he had spotted the new threat coming from the distant tree line…

“Next wave?” asked Tobias, his voice was shaking a little.

Dieter pointed at the distant entrance to the area where yet more skaven were incoming. This time there was ten clanrats and some new types of rat men that they hadn’t seen here yet. Amongst the rabble were five stormvermin. These were the warrior breed of the rat people, naturally black of fur and better armoured than the others. They each carried a long pole arm. Also, creeping along carefully they could see five more skaven dressed all in black wearing hooded cloaks. They recognized them as assassins, like the one they had met in Middenheim’s under passages recently.

Rissandrea looked at the others in desperation and then threw that feeling aside, deciding to sight up for another shot instead. She would serve her goddess until the end, she thought.

Tobias loaded a bolt into his crossbow and fired it at the closest group of skaven. One of the foul rat men fell. The Halfling held an expression of hopelessness on his face as he glanced at the other group getting ever closer. Tordrad’s gun had rang out several more times, but the skaven were not stopping. The clan leader gave a shrill cry, louder and higher in pitch than any of the party had thought possible from skaven lungs.

“Oh that’s wonderful” started Dieter, “he’s just warned the others”.

“You mean to say you believe this is only the scouting party?” came Maestro reply.

“I do indeed” answered Dieter, “don’t worry, you’ll see the main force soon enough.”

It all made sense now thought Rissandrea, the beastmen and humans had been gnawed on, eaten. It had to have been the rats, those of four legs and those of two.

Dieter had suspected as much as well, again not sharing this information with the group at the time. He suspected that the skaven will have ambushed the loser of a fight between the other two forces and plunged through them while they were tired and disorganized.

“An army…” said Maestro.

“Well perhaps not an entire army” answered Tobias, “reports had been placed that skaven presence were fighting with the empire a short way away. Perhaps this is only a depleted army.”

“Oh well that’s alright then isn’t it?” came Maestro’s reply. The others couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic or not as he blasted an oncoming skaven with a bolt of lightning.

Dieter waited, having no ranged attacks of his own, he simply paced back and forth atop the raised areas, muttering to himself every now and then. Rissandrea noted that it almost sounded like he was trying to reason with himself in some way.

As the first group of skaven got to them, they were thinned out in numbers from the many ranged attacks. Ulger growled defensively as Dieter patted the great doberman to reassure it. Tordrad fired one more shot at point blank range straight into the face of the clan leader amongst them, tearing its brain half out of its skull. The other skaven gasped fearfully as Tordrad ran forwards, smacked another clanrat to the mouth with the butt of his gun. Its teeth shattered as the Kislevian armoured tank of a man quickly swung the gun back into its holster and drew his great axe. In its drawing, Tordrad flowed it outwards into an attack which gutted another of the rat men. The Kislevite stepped into the group, tearing at them as he went.

Rissandrea granted her allies with blessings of Shallya, to embrace them with courage and inner strength, to bless them with enlightenment of thought so that they might react as fast as was possible for them. She hoped it would help as she struck a skaven to the chest with her quarterstaff, knocking it back down the steps. Dieter too plunged into the skaven, now with his beastman derived gauntlet on, he attacked assertively. It was paying off. He seemed so happy with the blood of his enemies across his face. Tordrad kept advancing. With each rat man he cut down, he stepped forward into another. Tobias continued to fire crossbow bolts. One skaven had reached the top of the steps at last and the halfling had been forced to thrust the bolt he was holding, straight into the creature’s face. As he withdrew the bolt, it had an eyeball and some flesh attached to it. Tobias grimaced and loaded it into the crossbow anyway, which he fired at the second group of skaven who were almost upon them. The shot whistled forwards cutting the air with a strange sound as it pierced the armour of a stormvermin. It fell to one knee with bits of the other dead skaven’s body hanging from the bolt.

At last the stormvermin were upon Tordrad. He was up ahead all on his own. As the stormvermin attacked him, their hits clanged harmlessly against his thick armour plating. Ulger was now busy biting swarms of rats that surrounded him and jumped towards his neck. His body was starting to bleed with bites, for he was more susceptible being lower down as he was.

The young woman finally gathered her nerve and started to attack the rat men too. Tobias noticed that she was firing icicles from her finger tips. Though the magical attacks were not killing them in one shot, they certainly slowed them.

Maestro gave a small lightning jolt into the area of the biggest rodent swarm, which fried a lot of the rats at once. This made most of them run away from the source of that damage, which they recognized as being primal energy. No creature would stay out in a thunder storm after all.

Some of the others had their work cut out for them, being forced to stomp on rats so that they didn’t get distracted from the coming threat ahead.

Tordrad’s huge battle cry made the skaven reluctant to attack; “Do Tor!” came the call from the Kislevian, who fought savagely. Still the stormvermin’s best attacks could not pierce his armour. The assassins jumped in and tried their luck. Their attacks too were harmlessly pinging off of the man who began cutting them down as well.

As one assassin attacked, Tordrad kicked the body of a dead stormvermin across the ground at it, tripping it up. Skaven were far smaller than humans but even so, this was a show of great strength from the man. He then brought his metal clad boot down upon the prone black garbed rat man, crushing its skull.

Though outnumbered, the group fought back skilfully, engaging the remaining skaven at close quarters and pulling into a circle around Tordrad to take the beatings off of him.

Eventually, much quicker than they thought possible, the attackers were all dead. The group collectively had become hardened to combats far worse than this. Even the assassins were able to have little effect in their attacks, because it was a fair fight, as their clan rat brethren fell around them plus they had not gotten the jump on the party – who instead were engaging them face to face. A terrible situation for a skaven to be in!

Two skaven desperately ran to get away. Tobias reacted quickly grabbing the weapon closest at hand as he swung a stone from his sling. It leapt into the air and seemingly disappeared into the sky, swallowed up by the clouds on the horizon. But then it must have dropped, because the intended target was hit in the head and fell to the ground like a sack of potatoes.

Tordrad casually loaded his gun once more, taking his time as he pushed the powder laden shot deep into the barrel. Maestro stared in surprise at Tordrad’s casual manner. He obviously intended to fire upon the skaven but it was running away at a great rate. Soon it would be out of range and away to warn any others that might be present.

Tordrad took aim and pulled the trigger. The rat man stopped suddenly, as if frozen to the spot then fell over sideways.

The others looked at Tordrad in marvel. Rissandrea examined him and saw his armour had been dented and tested in several places yet not pierced. When the Kislevian pulled a section of the plating away however, it was clear to see that he had suffered terrible bruising, in some places bleeding under the skin. Still he retained a grim smile and the fixed stare of his eyes were keen below his impressive thick eyebrows.

“Granted it was a bit more than just a mere scouting force” started Dieter aloud to the group as a whole.

They all stared at him sullenly.

Rissandrea looked around and saw no one else except Ulger had been hurt, so she laid her hands upon the great dog and let the healing powers that formed inside her do their job. She and the others had noticed her skills in this regard increasing lately.

Maestro glanced worriedly at the young woman. She didn’t take it personally. Just as well really because Maestro was that way with all members of the opposite sex.

Her face held recognizable traits of common Empire folk, yet her pale skin, slightly wider face shape and those striking blue eyes spoke of sterner northern roots of heritage.

Tobias looked to the young woman, “My young lady, it is obviously too unsafe for you to remain here. We should escort you away from this place with haste.”

“Yes…” came the young woman’s reluctant reply, with sadness sitting around the border of her words.

With the threat of potential harm to the young lady having passed, Dieter was now visibly uninterested in hearing anything else about her. He simply got down onto the ground and laid his ear flat against the dusty dirt track they stood on, listening for anything else.

“I won’t be able to train you though” said Maestro suddenly, as if in panic. The young lady noticed that the wizard would not look her in the eye as he spoke, “Before when I said I could, I literally only meant to explain that I am a master and can recognize that you need training…from someone else…”

Tobias looked at Maestro, seeing him stuttering over himself surrounded by half cocked incomplete thoughts. I wonder if he’ll always be this way, Tobias pondered.

“Do you have a name?” asked Tobias.

The girl looked down at him, almost quizzically at first, as if he had spoken a different language. “…Anastasia” came her reply.

Tordrad’s eyes widened with confirmation as he spoke in his native tongue, <”Ah, a good royal name is this. Makes me remember home to look at you.”>

<”Thankyou”> came the young lady’s reply in Kislevian, <”Though I suspect I would not hold a candle to the Tsarina’s beauty and power.”>

Tordrad was thoroughly taken aback at this. Since leaving his homeland, he had heard no one else speak his language. He had been alone, internally for so long. This could be a refreshing change he thought…or it could make him miss home again, in a way that even the vodka might not cure. He was always alright as long as he wasn’t thinking about it.

The young woman felt at ease with Tordrad and continued to talk openly to him, <”My father, he was from Kislev.”>

Tordrad nodded in understanding, a smile wide upon his face as she continued, <”He was disgraced, a soldier in the army, kicked out for misconduct. Made a new life here. He said he was lucky to find my mother, or else he might not have been able to go on living.”>

Tordrad became uncomfortable at these words. He shifted uneasily from one foot to the other and his skin cringed at this topic. He then considered who he had in the Empire, who gave his life purpose to ‘go on’ as the girl had put it. He looked at Maestro who was busily trying to swat a fly away from a plum he had removed from his robes, the wizard ducking and shouting threats of imminent lightning bolts at the fly who just wouldn’t give up trying to get at the overly ripe fruit. Tordrad shook his head and wondered where it had all gone wrong.

Suddenly a nearby house top floor window opened. One of the men who had been outside with them poked his head out and looked around at the carnage before asking, “So it’s over is it?”

“No thanks to you!” came Maestro’s angry reply, “And if anymore come I’ve a bloody good mind to blow the locks off your front door and see what you do then.”

Dieter stood up suddenly, a look of concern on his face. The others saw it and didn’t like it one bit.

The man in the window had seen something off in the distance, from his great vantage point, panicked and shot back inside pulling the window closed with great haste just as a unit of ten stormvermin appeared out of the tree line once more, halberds propped up on their shoulders in a marching position.

Anastasia shrieked in fear. Tordrad glared at them as he re-affixed his armour plating back into place. Maestro rolled his eyes in what at first glance might have seemed like an easy going reaction of “here we go again”, yet it was in fearful disbelief that the nightmare was indeed not over.

Rissandrea could not draw her eyes from the corpses of the two men, still being devoured by rats on the ground. She considered whether they deserved to have their souls consecrated by holy prayer, after what they were planning to do to Anastasia. She then fought that momentary feeling away, knowing that her order believed everyone deserved respect in death, that every soul was sacred.

Dieter asked Rissandrea, “Is Ulger alright to fight?”

Rissandrea looked at the dog with its tongue out panting and suggested, “He needs rest.”

Dieter replied, “No chance of that, lots of them coming in. I felt the vibrations.”

Tobias complained, “We should have left while we had the chance.”

Dieter responded, “No chance of that either, we would have run into them anyway, I feel them coming from everywhere – and we might not have had such a favourable positioning as this, somewhere out there.”

The others looked at Dieter momentarily as if he must surely hold some hidden secrets or powers that they didn’t know about, then turned their attention back to the oncoming skaven forces, appearing from the undergrowth in three places at once.

Still some distance away but closing fast, the Skaven forces came on en-masse this time. The group’s ranged shots did little to the enemy numbers from long range. They did not panic nor delay for even a moment.

Suddenly, a strange puff of smoke upon the raised platform they stood upon got their attention. One of the black hooded assassins had appeared out of nowhere and had his blades aimed for what he considered to be the least armed and weakest of the group: Rissandrea.

Tordrad saw this and sped forwards into a lunge which carried hard into the side of the devious killer rat-man, who judged his incoming foes trajectory well and jumped over the blade itself. Though Tordrad’s brute strength still lifted the killer along the ground and away from the woman, whose concentration was elsewhere anyway, focusing on keeping holy blessings freshly committed to this site of battle.

The assassin backflipped away from the Kislevite and as he did so he landed a kick into the taller man’s jaw.

Tordrad spat blood onto the ground and roared in challenge, rushing out to meet the Skaven as it retreated.

Maestro’s concern wasn’t the assassin itself, but the spell which had brought the foul creature to them. It had been a teleportation spell that had carried it here and that could indicate one very serious threat was approaching: A grey seer.

He had no way of seeing where it was yet, as skaven leaders always led from the rear, a place of pride and honour. To be sneaky and expect others to die instead of you was one of the greatest leadership traits that could be considered in a potential governing warlord.

The rest of the skaven were still some way off but what concerned Tobias as he watched was Tordrad’s hot headed attack. He was lunging and missing as the crafty assassin kept flipping and backing away from the man, drawing him further away from his friends. Tobias aimed his crossbow to try and line up a shot with the assassin, but Tordrad’s bulk kept obstructing the view. There was a chance he would hit the Kislevite if he fired. He cursed quietly and tripled that curse when two more of the devious assassins appeared as if from out of nowhere, surrounding Tordrad on three sides at once. The eshin triad was complete and focused together on one target. Tordrad realised too late that situation he was now in. He was too far from Rissandrea for her protective blessings to be of any good and too far from his allies for anyone to help him fend the assassins off. He fought defensively as best as he could, but that wouldn’t be enough to hold out for long. He figured he perhaps had only mere moments left to live. Already a number of blows from the assassin’s throwing stars had connected. They were softening him up from three directions at once. He was lucky that these weapons weren’t poisoned, but the blades and claws they wielded left him in no doubt of poison being present, as they dripped with a luminous green substance.

Tordrad’s blood dripped to the ground from several wounds. One across his forehead was bleeding across his eye. As the crimson life force poured out of his body, Dieter who had been watching likened it to losing his own. After all, were Tordrad to die, it would mean he too was closer to the end – closer to Morr’s eternal imprisonment. That was not acceptable!

Dieter’s panic at this thought, made him realise how small, how human he still was. There was something that could still frighten him. Regardless, he let those emotions run wild and the winds of aethyr gathered about him. He hadn’t cast this spell in while because it was dangerous…it would mean him coming closer to the other…But there was nothing else left but that choice. With his willpower, he tore open a brief gateway through reality and stepped through it. On the other side, he half slid, half walked through a sepia toned sub-domain that resembled the real world, except that spirits were also present and visible. It was a dangerous place for him to tread, closer to the daemonic realm than the physical dimension was. This was a place known as ‘The Hedge’.

As he moved through time here, long moments or minutes could pass while in the real world perhaps only a second or two will have gone by. Dieter raced as fast as he could towards Tordrad, who was moving in a strange blur of slow motion to avoid numerous incoming attacks from the Skaven. Some were beginning to connect, slashing into his thick plate armour, which was for now providing enough protection.

Dieter was getting close. He knew that he would have very little physical manipulation over events in the real world from here. He would only have the time to rescue Tordrad. He reached both hands out of the hedge reality and clasped Tordrad.

At the same moment in the physical realm, the eshin assassins jumped backwards in fright, seeing a shimmering disturbance then two hands reach out of thin air. A terrible magic power was at play, similar in feeling to that which they had witnessed from their greatest mages – the grey seers. At once, the three of them tensed their glands, as if to squirt the musk of fear – not that they could of course, because eshin assassins would have their glands removed, so that no scent would betray them to their would be targets. Skaven had a much better sense of smell than humans and given that most of their targets were indeed skaven this was important.

Just as Dieter grasped Tordrad tightly with both hands, a presence and resonating vibration that resembled a voice came from behind him, “You’ve left yourself open to me brother. It’s my turn now.”

Dieter screamed as the dark silhouette like person stepped into him and absorbed into his body. The spirit looked very much like Dieter – and as it entered the would be doctor’s body, his own body altered too. His eyes became black and his skin looked strange, like a translucent shadow that showed his real skin underneath it.

The now possessed Dieter pulled Tordrad backwards into the Hedge, with a supernatural strength far beyond that of the Kislevite man. There he moved quickly with Tordrad backwards through the hedge, floating back to the raised platform the others waited on.

In the space of just a couple of seconds, a blink of an eye Tobias had seen Dieter disappear from the spot he had been standing on, reach Tordrad in a haze of darkness, snatch him away from the clutches of the skaven assassins about him and then re-appear close by. The strain of this and poisoned globes of glass that had shattered near – thrown by despicable skaven wearing breathing apparatus to keep themselves from harm was too much for the halfling, who passed out. The last thing he saw was Dieter going crazy, tearing rat-men apart with his bare hands – then all was darkness…

As Tobias came around, the sounds of fighting alerted him at once that he would still be in danger. He found this odd as he expected to be dead: Being dead of course meant you were in no danger…As his eyes opened, Dieter had returned to normal, surrounded by many more skaven corpses than there had been.

Tordrad was fighting back to back with the trainee doctor, both wielding their melee weapons once again.

As Tobias pulled himself to his feet once more, he saw that the skaven had made it to the raised platform all around them. Huge areas of flame burnt and licked the ground here and there making the halfling wonder what had caused that. The question was about to be answered.

Dieter shouted to Maestro, “I see a new target of opportunity. Like before, ready?”

Maestro shouted, Give me a moment.” The wizard put a future sight enchantment upon himself and ran to the edge of the platform trying to find the target that Dieter’s finger was pointing at. His future sight, protected him from the lunges from those few skaven that had made it onto the platform and the ranged attacks aimed at the group from afar, by giving him minor insight into what would happen were he to step in a particular direction at any given time. He of course would have to trust that his second reasoned choice would be the right one, because a second new warning might not come in time in line with his new decision. Furthermore, there was the intense psychological strain such a spell would be the imbued person under, for they would often repetitively witness their own demise coming from the fate of their first choice of action. Maestro of course wasn’t your normal psyche anyway, so this protected him from certain problems that might befall a…different person.

Maestro spotted the target Dieter had referred to. It was one of the skaven weapon teams they had brought with them. Once the first skaven had died to the group, the grey seer commanding them had decided to bring the entire army to destroy the “pest” as he saw it – as of course he would be able to do, outnumbering them so greatly. What they hadn’t banked on though, was the group’s teamwork, talent and determination to win. Maestro and Dieter had already pulled this trick on several large groups of the skaven, incinerating loads at once and making them scatter into smaller controllable packs that had either wandered towards the group and died quickly or ran away in disorder. This time, the target was not an entire group of the rat men. It was a two man weapon team carrying a warpfire thrower. They had seen one of these make it the platform earlier and it had opened fire with its luminous green burning flame. Luckily though, Rissandrea had been able to uppercut her staff to the nozzle where the flames shot, sending the gout of burning would-be death up into the air above their heads. It had still rained down some smouldering, painful pieces upon their heads, but that had been better than being melted in seconds! The Shallyan devotee had then crushed her staff into the pipe that fed the weapon, connected to a massive fuel pack carried by the skaven behind. The flow of fuel blocked, the weapon stuttered and backfired, smoking terribly. The skaven had understandably abandoned the pack and ran away, and there it still lay upon the ground of the platform, unexploded and lightly smoking.

This time Maestro would show the skaven the error of their ways, bringing something so dangerous and flammable into battle. He concentrated his celestial magic and the air started kicking up. This focused downwards, onto the weapon team that strode confidently beside a large unit of clanrats. As the warpfire thrower came into range, the winds increased into a swirling vortex upon them. Their enemies on the platform were now in range for their burning death. The lead skaven at the front pulled the trigger, but as the flames shot out, they hit the swirling unnatural winds and spiralled into several luminous flaming green tails that swirled and dissipated before they could reach the group.

“Part one done!” shouted Maestro above the din of battle around them.

“Part two coming up!” replied Dieter, as he quickly moved to the platform’s edge with a bottle of pure medicinal alcohol in his hands. It had a raggedly torn off piece of cloth stuck in the top, soaking in the substance inside. Dieter concentrated a very small degree of fire by way of spell, through his palm and into the top of the cloth, setting it alight. He then threw the “molatov cocktail” at the weapon team. It struck the swirling wind and smashed against the front skaven. Within a moment, all hell seemed to break loose. An explosion of absolute ground shaking magnificence erupted from the spot where the warpfire throwers had been. The explosion tore into the unit next to them and felled two thirds of them from contact. Maestro’s winds were just enough to keep the oxygen coming in to keep the flames lit as he moved the winds over and across the unit of now running clanrats.

Together the two of them had pulled this trick a few times, but now they weren’t going to be able to get away with it anymore, Maestro knew, as he at last saw the culprit for the magical spells he had seen earlier appearing through the unit of stormvermin closing on them.

Grey Seer Snoutskar was unimpressed at the dismal performance from the army he had procured from the nearby Under-Altdorf’s council. Surely an army of skaven wouldn’t let a simple handful of humans (and one halfling) disrupt them from obtaining the chunks of meteorite warpstone that had recently landed nearby? It had been a simple recovery job. Now he was about to lose most of the army and this was unacceptable! There wouldn’t be enough hands to carry the pieces of warpstone back into the dens in time. What if other humans came and found it? Things would get messy and complicated for sure. More troops would be needed and the council would blame him! What insufferable ingratitude it would be! No, he reasoned, this had to be finished now – and he was the only one amongst this force with the strength to do it.

A mass of green lightning crackled onto the platform and began expanding. The grey seer meant to drive them down amongst the skaven below where they would become vulnerable to his underlings. As the sphere of green energy expanded, forcing the group to step further towards the edge of the area, Maestro stared with determination. Because this was a magical spell, he felt a sense of responsibility to have to stop it. He readied river’s edge from its scabbard and willed the water within it to expand at convulse in preparedness. The wizard himself was a user of the celestial elements. Lightning was his forte! He knew that this particular lightning spell didn’t have an infinite degree of energy. It wasn’t being fed in a constant stream from the caster. He knew that if he could only force the energy in the spell to speed up its consumption process it would burn out quickly. The others thought him mad when he began walking towards the expanding lightning energy. This was indeed an action very unlike him indeed, but this time he was confident in his knowledge that he would be right…he hoped.

Maestro readied himself against the stinging aethyr that closed towards him. He readied his weapon. When the lightning was close enough at last, he lunged at full stretch, wincing his eyes shut against the crackling stings from the small escaping lightning edges – and the watery blade penetrated the orb with a massive hissing burning wave of sound, as if in protest. The rubber on the handle protected the wizard, as the shock of the impact forced him onto one knee. The spell burned and crackled at an amazingly accelerated rate but did not expand anymore! Maestro had done it. As the spell faded away in crackling tendrils that became nothingness on their journey to nowhere, the wizard collapsed to his other knee, the pain in his body from the contest of arduous pressure almost too much for him.

The grey seer lashed his tail against the ground in frustration. So, he thought, they have one amongst their number almost as powerful as a grey seer! Then, he decided, he would show this wizard the true power of his honoured order. If this human wanted to see power, he would give it to him, and all of his friends.

Grey Seer Snoutskar bite into the piece of warpstone he had concealed in his mouth earlier that day. This was his emergency supply were the worst to happen. The worst truly had happened, all because of this wizard. Snoutskar’s heart began beating quickly with over excitement at what was to come, the slaughter and mayhem he would bring about. His eyes glowed green with mad power. The other skaven even knew to take a few steps away from him in this state. Again, the warp tinged lightning formed onto the platform, but this time from above, from a huge green glowing mass of energy. Lightning bolts tore down randomly across the entire length of the platform. Each shot singed the ground as it struck. The grey seer concentrated even more hateful power into it and the bolts began tearing the stone out of the ground with each strike.

Ulger was shaking a dying skaven between his great jaws when a bolt struck him and the rat man equally, felling them both. Both were barely still alive, with black smoke pouring off of their burnt bodies.

At the site of this, Tobias drew his dagger and raced as fast as he could to reached the grey seer. He determined with some instinct that he would be able to reach the vile rat mage with one strong leap and slit his throat while he concentrated. He wondered where such a tactic as this had come from, out of his psyche. He had almost made it too. He was just about to jump from the ledge when a bolt struck him in the top of the head. He collapsed to the floor, perilously close to the edge of the platform. The warpstone shard in his skull perhaps saved his life, acting as an interference to the power coursing in. He lost consciousness for the second time in this fight…

Maestro dived behind Tordrad who still stood tall. The wizard reasoned that if he were hit, at least Tordrad’s armour would attract the worst of it…It wasn’t that Maestro was consciously selfish or uncaring about others. He simply had an overly strong survival instinct, like that of a skaven. A skaven couldn’t help being that way and neither could Maestro. Perhaps it was some mental condition that was truly the cause of it, some psychosis or whatever it was – but such things were looked at in an unimportant light within the old world. In fact, issues of psychosis were encouraged because the communities of mankind were always under constant threat from the forces of darkness that co-inhabited the lands with them. In this case, it was a now insane magically charged rat-man who sought to end the lives of the group as fast as “skavenly” possible.

Maestro concentrated on his own lightning cloud spell. He summoned an aethyric cloud with the opposite polarity sensed within the grey seer’s spell. Already bolts of Maestro’s lightning shot down, attracted to the grey seer’s green energy. Some of the green bolts likewise were attracted to the normal lightning from above, move upwards to meet it. Where the impacts met, the two cancelled each other out into nothingness. Maestro held his hands over his head in a futile gesture of fear and self preservation. The wizard’s behaviour threw the grey seer off somewhat, with him considering it too skaven-like to be comfortable. It was a little frightening to imagine the enemy behaving like you. How would you defeat them then? He thought.

The others, including Maestro got off with only a few small minor burns. Tordrad’s sword had been struck with lightning, but instead of it burning him, the lightning had grown in power at the tip, making those nearby squint their eyes. After that, the blade had crackled with power for a while after. Maestro noted this out of curiosity, amid ducking under the Kislevite’s legs for protection. Just as the last lashes of the storm came to an end, they fizzled out right on Rissandrea’s position. She fell and hit the floor, with one last prayer to her Goddess on her lips. A vision of Shallya, she swore she saw forming before her as she closed her eyes…

Maestro was in so much pain he couldn’t move.

Dieter was wheezing from the effort his supernatural encounter had put him under, during what he remembered as being a “black out”. Tordrad was in no shape to fight the rest of the army alone.

Tobias, Ulger and Rissandrea were not getting back up, though all seemed alive, for now.

Tordrad regarded the lightning now crackling from his sword. He realised that this lightning was the normal colour, not the green that the grey seer had created. That could only mean one thing. He was creating it himself! But how, he wondered. He didn’t think to question it. He simply saw the opportunity this gave him here and now. The grey seer was readying to cast the same spell again, this time focusing even harder to finish the rest of them off.

Maestro suddenly realised that his protective wall off flesh, bones and plate had driven off somewhere, as the sky once more became visible to him. He got to his feet and scurried after his bodyguard. After all, how was he able to guard his body if he wasn’t there?

Tordrad had set off at a run, towards the grey seer. Snoutskar saw this and used the channelled energy thus far to emit a blast of green electricity from his fingertips into the man. It struck him and he fell to one knee shaking with the effort to keep moving. Green lightning danced across his body. His armour and clothing blackened where it contacted.

Maestro suddenly passed him and reached the edge of the platform. It wasn’t a good idea risking himself, he knew, but doing nothing in this case was perhaps an even bigger risk! Plus, if this grey seer killed Tordrad, Tordrad wouldn’t be around to die instead of him at some later date, like any good bodyguard ought to, as he reasoned it. So with that, he jumped from the edge of the platform, leaping long and far in mid air and incanting a spell as he went. The grey seer barely had time to re-channel again when Maestro made contact. His staff struck the grey seer in the mouth, chipping one of his incisors clean off. Maestro had given himself a tiny boost of magic from below, with his jump and this allowed him to levitate over the grey seer’s head to escape him, or it would have at least, if Snoutskar hadn’t reached a hand up and grabbed the wizard by the ankle. His taloned grip made the wizard’s leg bleed. Before the evil rat man could pull Maestro down to his level or stab something sharp up at him, Tordrad was already in cutting range. He sliced his sword across the grey seer’s nose, re-opening the scar on him that had so given him the name. This cut had torn flesh right down through the mouth, revealing several of his sharp teeth. Tordrad made ready with a final stab motion, perfectly aimed to go inside the open mouthed screaming creature.

With the last of his warpstone induced energy wearing off, he quickly forced out a final teleportational “skitterleap” spell on himself. Within the next moment, the grey seer appeared out of sight behind a tree in the distance. From there he scampered away, ringing the small high pitched bell of retreat and regroup, so that the remnants of his army would hear it and come.

Soon all of the skaven had gone. Clan eshin were already preparing agents to drop in at the scene when the humans had evacuated the area, so that they might dispose of the many skaven bodies that lie about here. After all, keeping the underfolk a mystery, an old wives tale to the majority of humans was the safest course for them. Less attention meant more prosperity within the Under-Empire – until the time was right for all of skavenkind to show itself, when the final great war would come and the skaven would inherit all, as was the promise of the Great Horned Rat all those years ago.

Amazingly, none of the party had died. Some had come close. Rissandrea had later spoken of seeing Shallya herself appear to her and tell her to return to her home, to Nuln and there lay proper monument to her Goddess. Rissandrea was firm in purpose now, resolving that her deity had entrusted her with a holy mission of faith – and she would not be found lacking in accomplishing it. Therefore, even though this disturbance had happened, she was still resolute about reaching Nuln. The group collectively decided that they would head back to Altdorf first and rest.

The girl they had rescued, Anastasia…she had no home left. Those in her village had turned on her and she had nearly been killed in the skaven attack. The only reason she was now safe was because of this group. She instantly hit things off well with Tordrad, having Kislevite blood roots in common at least. Therefore, she decided she would go with them for now, until such time that she could be taken to Kislev. Tordrad was notably not very eager at the prospect of the group being the ones to perhaps take her. Rissandrea wondered at this, thinking it strange that he might not want to see his home again. She believed that all of Kislev’s countrymen were a proud people, detesting the Empire in comparison to their place of birth. But for now, Anastasia didn’t mind where they went, as long as she was with them. This group were indestructible, in her opinion…Were that only the case…

150 years ago:

The Celestial College:

Seer Magister Artwieb gasped in realisation. The others nodded grimly. They all recognised the woman from the future vision as seen by Tristran back in Middenheim…This certainly did not bode well – and it gave the council a new timeline for attempted concentration to deal with. Perhaps now the end of the world really was coming, they considered.